Policy banning items fits on top of heap
Airlines passengers will be allowed to carry small scissors and small tools.
THE use of box cutters as weapons by the 9/11 plane hijackers prompted a broad prohibition of anything sharp or pointed in carry-on bags. Airport screening created giant piles of confiscated small scissors and other non-threat items. Finally, the Transportation Security Administration has modified its ban and begun focusing on explosives, which pose a greater threat.
The new rules, which go into effect Dec. 22, will allow passengers to carry scissors with a cutting edge of four inches or less and tools such as screwdrivers and pliers shorter than seven inches, but not crowbars, hammers or saws. Screeners will correctly devote more of their time to patting down passengers' backs and abdomens. The agency also has increased the number of bomb-sniffing dogs at airports.
The ban on innocent items may have distracted screeners from spotting dangerous ones. Tests between in late 2001 and early 2002 found that screeners missed 70 percent of knifes, 30 percent of guns and 60 percent of fake bombs.
The rules were based on the assumption that terrorists are stupid. Security expert Bruce Schneier points out in his book, Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly about Security in an Uncertain World, that virtually anything, including a rock, a laptop computer battery, a belt or a properly trained person's bare hands can be a weapon.
"You can buy a composite knife that doesn't show up on a metal detector," Schneier writes. "Snap the extension of a wheeled suitcase off in just the right way, and you've got a pretty effective spear. Break a bottle and you've got a nasty weapon. Garrotes can be made of fishing line or dental floss."
Inside airport security ropes, Schneier tells of buying a screwdriver to replace the one confiscated at a checkpoint in Newark, N.J., and, at Washington National Airport, "all the ingredients I needed to build an incendiary device."
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